Jazz Education, Jazz Unity

From Ali Berkok’s Facebook-comments on Another Elephant (Facebook link):

“I really don’t think a kid younger than 16 is at all ready for jazz.

I’ll elaborate a bit: I think you can teach a younger person how to swing. I think a good jazz player, however, should have an understanding of how most of the developments in the music come from a degree of rejection of what went before. There’s also the concept of musical movements being couched in greater social changes of the time they come from. You also have to know enough standard practice period music to get how jazz turns those conventions on their head (i.e. rhythm). I suppose there are some pre-teens who might be able to handle all that, but I’ve never met any.”

I disagree so strongly that I consider this a non-issue. The fundamentals for a jazz education can start at age three. Kids can improvise and play tunes at age ten. Pre-teens can communicate musically in jazz ensembles. Mid-teens can write tunes and start their own jazz ensembles.

I know this because I lived it. And kids are still living it at the Humber College Community Music School.

But there’s still something lingering:

Jazz education is maximum 40 years old in Canada (if not in North America and the world). Programs have been springing up (some with considerable resistance) in colleges and universities all across the country. Naturally, jazz is gradually seeping down into high schools where graduates of these colleges and universities are teaching and making a living.

Side Note: Remember this post? It fits nicely, especially these few sentences:

“Arts institutions serve much broader a purpose than creating performers…Not all graduates have the skills, perseverance (or desire) to be performers. But that experience remains with them forever. They have a unique perspective. They have a cultured perspective.”

I’m very fortunate that I’m part of the first generation of music students who had access to a jazz education from when I was 3 years old (at HCCMS). To my knowledge, it was the first of its kind in the world and is still at the forefront of jazz education today. I’m excited to think that more programs like HCCMS will be appearing over the next 20 years!

Unfortunately, this movement is challenged at the post-secondary level by classical-music education. That’s beginning to change. The jazz community also challenges it. That’s changing too, but there are still plenty of issues out there creating resistance (The Carolina Shout incidentTeachout’s articleOld vs. New, Ali’s comments etc.). They’re all related in that they expose the community’s disunity. I hope that ironing out these issues is only a matter of fully realizing the education movement. After all, how many of them would exist if jazz education was 80 years old?

I’ll be bold: I think this 40-year-old process is part of a greater movement that can change the face of music education. It can change the world! It’s only a matter of blood, sweat, tears and patience!

My job: Pave the way; Promote unity.

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